By LUCY OSBORNE
My 5-year-old son was choosing his clothes for school one day, when he came upon a skirt. He was so excited, “Look Mum, here’s my special skirt” he said.
His sister has recently turned 2 and received a plethora of cute dresses of differing colours, styles and materials. She had paraded them to the party goers with the expertise of a runway model at fashion week.
She had declared the garish bedazzled patchwork dress of orange, pink and purple to be her favourite and told me I could give the cute little black dress with red cherries back to the shop it came from. (“The cherries are red, Mum. Not pink!”)
When tucking my son in the night after his sister’s party, he earnestly asked why she always got so many special clothes, while his clothes were always so boring? Why couldn’t he have beautiful clothes? Then, the next time we went shopping he started looking at the girl’s clothing and declared he wanted a beautiful dress or skirt.
So that Christmas, on my lunch break, I made a visit to the David Jones kid’s department in search of something super special just for him. I bought my son a high end girl’s skirt from a fancy Melbourne kid’s designer – somewhere I would never usually shop.
He was ecstatic.
He raced to put it on and danced and twirled about in front of grandma and grandpa getting lots of ‘ooos’ and ‘aaahs’.
But as his first day of school approached, I felt a twinge of nervousness. The skirt was fine for at home and for going to the local park but what if he wanted to wear it on his first day? I decided not to let it have too prominent a position in the drawers, just in case.
Soon after he started school, he told me how one of the girls in his grade had exactly the same skirt and he would really like to wear his to school today (he attends an inner city Melbourne school with no uniform).
My heart started to race, “I really think it needs a good iron,” I said, buying time.
“And we’re running late today. How about I iron it for you while you’re at school and it will be ready for you when you get home?”
It’s a funny thing how having the pigeon pair, one boy and one girl, highlights exactly how gendered kids are from the moment they enter this world. I would feel my heckles rise as with the almost daily comments on my 2 year old’s looks.
“Such a beautiful girl!” exclaims the greengrocer/childcare worker/old greek neighbour/total random stranger on the street. And as a result I’d always assumed it would be this gendering of my daughter which would cause me the greatest struggle.
Because while girls can be tomboys, a boy in a skirt is a much more challenging quandary.